Want consent taught as part of sex education? You have the power
OPINION: Hey parents and students - if you want sexual consent taught in schools then guess what? You can make it happen.
The last few weeks have been dominated by headlines, comment pieces, protests and petitions over an alleged rape culture in New Zealand and whether students are being taught about consent and it being OK to say no.
So let's look at the facts. Sex education is compulsory in schools until a student turns 14 and any school who wants to teach teenagers about consent can do so.
So how do you make a school teach consent to your kids? Simple, make your message clear to the board of trustees.
* Wellington College students stood down over Facebook 'rape' comments
* Rape culture action moved after Wellington College boys threaten protesters
* Sex mis-education: A teenage boy's experience
More than 400 people, mostly students, turned up at Parliament last week calling on the government to make consent compulsory in the curriculum.
This all comes on the back of well-recorded incidents involving Wellington teenage boys making rape comments about girls on social media and several other students being suspended for inappropriately filming female teachers.
But the reality is New Zealand schools are specifically set up to give communities the reins when it comes to making decisions about what kids are and aren't taught.
Boards of trustees, made up mostly of parents (and a student representative), are tasked with making decisions about whether consent, respect, care or just simply how the birds and the bees work are taught.
While it's admirable so many people turned up at Parliament to say enough is enough - imagine if that same number of people had turned up at a board meeting at any school around the country and demanded consent be taught?
Chances are the schools they descended on would have implemented it already if they'd had that kind of public outcry going on while they tried to busy themselves with the meeting's minutes.
When the country moved to the Tomorrow's Schools model in the 1980s the point of it was for local communities to have control over the curriculum and for the government to take its beak out.
Consequently it's not for the government to say whether schools should teach consent, just like they don't enforce schools to teach Te Reo.
Should schools teach both? Probably, yes. But that's not for Prime Minister Bill English, Education Minister Hekia Parata or Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell to decide - and what a dangerous path we'd be heading down if we left it to Ministers to make all the decisions.
Schools have been given the power to make their own choices for a reason - so parents and students have a say over what they are taught and how.
If teaching consent is as important as all the commentary and protests would suggest then turn up at your school's board meeting (they meet every month) and make your voice heard.
Parents and students have the power to do something so stop knocking on the government's door and start banging on your local board's.